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What Happened to James Chasse: 2006

Thursday, December 21, 2006

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - 12/21/06

from The Oregonian


Cops' violence disturbing

It is disturbing to think that Sir J. Millage is lucky ("Guardian upset by force police used 'to stop or protect'," Dec. 19). What is lucky about being Tased and beaten with batons by the police, hurt so badly that you need hospital care? Well, at least they did not beat Millage to death.

The violent police treatment of an autistic 15-year-old roaming the streets is a disturbing reminder of the brutal behavior of the Portland police force that led to the death of James P. Chasse Jr. We are still waiting to see the fundamental reform of our police essential to creating true security in our city.

Weed out the dirty dozen, the most violent members of the Portland police. Then we will see the changes needed to align the culture of our police bureau with the culture of our city.

NANCY YUILL

Northeast Portland

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Officer hailed for communication skills

from The Oregonian, by Maxine Bernstein

Portland Officer Dan Thompson this summer spent at least 30 minutes on a cell phone trying to coax a man armed with a gun out of a Southeast Portland house. The man was waving the firearm around, threatening his friends and holding it to his head.

Thompson, speaking from the street using a police car for cover, introduced himself, asked the man what was bothering him and assured him he was "here to help." Thompson reminded the man that police were not going away, "so we're going to have to find a solution to his problem."

The man stepped out, only to see a flank of police cars surrounding his home and retreated inside.

"I go, 'Darn it,' " Thompson recalled.

But the veteran cop didn't give up, connecting once again by phone with the armed man, trying to regain his trust. "I do remember walking back and forth between the police cars, totally focused on this guy," Thompson recalled.

The man eventually surrendered that June 6 evening and was unharmed. For his effective communication skills, Thompson on Monday was awarded the Chief's Forum's highest honor: the Nathan Thomas Memorial Award.

"It was Officer Thompson's maturity, patience and keen de-escalation skills that made sure this call had a positive outcome," said Louise Grant, the forum's co-chairwoman.

Thompson, 56, a 31-year bureau member, doesn't have special hostage negotiation training, but finds from his experience on the streets that "it seems like everybody hands me the phone." He was shocked by the recognition, calling it probably the highlight of his career, which he says he'll continue until he stops "having fun."

"This award is extremely special to every member of the bureau because we all carry with us the day Nathan Thomas was killed," Thompson said. "I'm humbled by it."

The award is named for a 12-year-old boy who was accidentally shot and killed by police in January 1992 while being held hostage in his home by a burglar. Nathan's mom, Martha McMurry, presented the award, noting that January will mark the 15th anniversary of Nathan's death; he would have turned 27 on Dec. 19.

"I no longer know what he might have been doing or what he might have looked like," McMurry said.

McMurry and Nathan's father, Gregory Thomas, chose not to sue the Police Bureau. Instead, they pressed the bureau to enhance officers' communication skills to de-escalate tense encounters and have the bureau recognize officers who exhibit this skill. Often, she said, she's asked whether she and her husband took the right path, if their efforts have helped.

"Well" she said, "it's very hard to answer that question."

She said she's pleased there has been the introduction of less-lethal weapons, such as bean-bag shotguns, and in the wake of James P. Chasse Jr.'s death in police custody, money set aside to ensure all officers complete 40 hours of crisis intervention training. But she said she recognizes that the training is not going to resolve every situation.

"Unfortunately, when things like that happen and people die and families love that person, we're all sorry this happens and it hurts everybody," McMurry said.

Nathan's mom urged the Bureau to continue recognizing officers who use communication as a police tool to connect with people and avoid violent encounters.

"If we're going to value community policing, we have to recognize communication, treating people with respect," McMurry said. "It might help keep other families from living the tragedy we live with every day."

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Portland Police Will Be Trained To Handle Mentally Ill Suspects

from OPB.com

Portland city commissioners approved funding Wednesday to train police officers to deal more sensitively with mentally ill people. The $250,000 is a fraction of the city money available thanks to higher-than-expected tax collections.

The training became a city council priority after a mentally ill man died in police custody this fall.

Steve Weiss is an advocate for the disabled. He says the training may be meant to avoid another death like James Chasse's, but he says police should use the techniques for anyone they think is behaving erratically.

Steve Weiss: "Crisis intervention training techniques must also be utilized for all those suspected to be on drugs or drunk. To put it another way: If drugs or alcohol had been found in James Chasse junior's system, would that have justified what happened to him after he was arrested? We don't think so."

The council vote on the nearly $11 million supplemental budget included a bureaucratic shuffle of more than 120 employees. Supportive commissioners say it will improve how the city serves Portland's water customers.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Lost in Translation - Police Say Cop "Accidentally Fell" on Chasse; Witness Statements Say Otherwise

from the Portland Mercury, by Matt Davis & Erin Lacour

The official police investigative reports into the in-custody death of James Philip Chasse Jr. on September 17 appear to have ignored—or at least heavily re-interpreted—the direct testimony of several independent witnesses.

The police investigation found that Chasse was killed because Officer Christopher Humphreys "accidentally fell" on him, as Sergeant Kyle Nice and Sheriff Deputy Brett Burton ran to catch up. But several witnesses—in separate transcripts of their statements released on November 9, alongside the cops' official investigation—said the cops "leapt" on or "tackled" Chasse. (The Multnomah County Grand Jury, on October 17, did not find the officers criminally liable for his death.)

The collected documents, which weighed several pounds, were not made available in electronic form, and were only being given out in bundles last week to media that had requested them weeks in advance. The cops defended the eight-week delay between Chasse's death and the release of the documents, saying they wanted to be fair in releasing the investigation to all media simultaneously. They also said it took a while to ensure all medical information was expunged, as required under federal law.

The witness statements paint a vivid picture of what happened on September 17.

"As soon as the guy was down, he basically leapt, leaped on him," said witness Justin Soltani of one of the officers, in a phone interview with detectives on September 24. But Detective Jon Rhodes' separate investigative report said, "Soltani believed the officer fell on the subject he was chasing, stating, 'The officer was half twisted on him,'" making no reference to Soltani's description of the officer who "leapt."

Another witness told the investigator a similar story. Rhodes' question was, "Can you tell what the catalyst for him going to the ground is? Was it a push, was it a trip or, or could you tell, did they just all of a sudden kinda all go down?" Diane Loghry said, in a telephone interview with Rhodes on September 21: "He went down because three guys were on top of him." But Rhodes' report of Loghry's testimony waters down the account to "she saw officers take the subject to the ground."

"I saw them throw him down to the ground," witness Jamie Marquez told the police on September 24. "It was like a... a football tackle, like you know, a... a nose guard tackling into the quarterback, kinda just throwin' him to the ground."

Detective Lynn Courtney's write-up of Marquez's testimony, however, only says he "observed three police officers chasing Chasse and watched them tackle him to the ground at that intersection."

Witness Randall Stuart told the police on September 21 that "the three men in uniform were able to gain on him enough to leap upon... I think it's fair to say everybody leapt upon him." Courtney's report, once again, tempers the testimony, writing that Stuart saw "the three pursuing officers jump on the individual, causing them all to fall to the ground."

Another red flag raised in the investigative report is the testimony of another witness, Constance Doolan, which indicates that one of the officers lied to her about Chasse's historic use of drugs. Doolan says an officer on the scene told her Chasse had "14 former convictions for crack cocaine," and how he and his colleagues "found a vial of crack cocaine" on Chasse that afternoon.

Chasse had no drugs on him or in his bloodstream, according to the autopsy and police reports. But the investigating officers do not appear to have asked Doolan which officer told her this, or for a description of him to try to ascertain who he was. From the investigation's transcripts, their only response to her story about an officer's apparent fabrication was, "Um-hm."

Chasse's lawyer, Tom Steenson, says the cops have not "had the common courtesy" yet to send him a copy of the investigation and witness transcripts they have released to the media. He does say, however, that what the transcripts appear to reveal is not surprising.

"If the detectives are summarizing witnesses' statements in this way, it is consistent with the approach of the city and police bureau so far," he says. "Consistently, from the moment this matter became public, the police bureau and the city have put out information that is false and not accurate in terms of what witnesses saw."

"The detective's summaries are not designed to reinterpret or summarize the witnesses' statements," says the Portland Police Bureau's Public Information Officer Brian Schmautz. "There is no attempt to change, delude, or decrease what is said, nor any intent of subterfuge. If you're suggesting the detectives are attempting to be sneaky, that is why we have released the transcripts—for the sake of transparency."

As far as the allegations of lying about Chasse's drug use are concerned, while it is rare for officers to be fired for use of force, they have been sacked for lying. In May and June of 1999, the bureau fired Officers Kenneth Ellison and Donald Warren, after one denied reversing into a light pole in a parking lot, and the other called in sick when he was not.

"Usually officers don't get fired for use of force, but for lying, cheating, or stealing," says Portland Copwatch activist Dan Handelman. Of Doolan's testimony, he says: "This is just one witness statement, but if it happened, then it's pretty outrageous."

"The police have repeatedly attempted to suggest that drugs were involved," says Steenson, who is still considering the possibility of a civil lawsuit with the Chasse family, "and that somehow, suspicion of drug use would justify what they did."

"I cannot explain that comment," says Schmautz. "There is no information that any of these officers had had contact with Chasse, so why would someone say that? Either it is somehow a misinterpretation of what was said, or it is wrong."

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Officer involved in Chasse death named in previous brutality lawsuit

from The Portland Tribune, Oct 27, 2006, Updated Nov 21, 2006

CORRECTION

On Oct. 26, 2006, the Portland Tribune published a story about two of the Portland police officers involved with the in-custody death of James Chasse Jr.

The headline in the electronic version of the story contained a statement about the previous use of force by Sgt. Kyle Nice, which is not factually supported by any source.

The Portland Tribune regrets the publication of the original headline.

Portland police officer Christopher Humphreys, involved last month in the death of James Chasse Jr., was named in a federal lawsuit alleging police brutality that the city settled for $90,000 earlier this year.

And in instances of use of force, Humphreys is tied for No. 2 within the police bureau since it began collecting those statistics in 2004, according to records obtained by the Portland Tribune.

The city admitted no fault in the settlement. Humphreys and other officers were dismissed from the lawsuit as a condition of the payout.

But one witness to the altercation said in court testimony that the man being arrested was so badly beaten he could only describe him as a “breathing corpse.”

Humphreys has used force more times — 78 — than all but one other Portland cop since late 2004. Another cop involved in the Chasse incident, Sgt. Kyle Nice, has 17 recorded uses of force in that time, which does not make him stand out statistically.

Humphreys also has been the subject of seven Internal Affairs Division complaints — one for each of his years on the force — with two of those cases still open. One of those relates to Chasse. Such complaints and details of the ensuing investigations generally are not considered public records. Nice, a 14-year veteran, has had two such complaints, including the Chasse case.

Like Humphreys, Nice also has had a use-of-force issue that led to a lawsuit.

In the lawsuits against both Humphreys and Nice, people accused them of excessive force, Humphreys for using his baton on a man’s legs, Nice for shooting a man in the left arm.

Police filed criminal charges against both men they were trying to arrest, and juries cleared each of them. They each later filed federal civil lawsuits. A jury found in favor of the city and Nice in the lawsuit filed against them.

Humphreys did not return a phone call or an e-mail seeking comment. Nice is out of town until next week and did not respond to requests for comment.

“Referencing the recent traumatic incident, you surely must recognize the psychological impact it has had on each of these officers,” Nice’s direct supervisor, Lt. Mike Lee, wrote in an e-mail. “With that in mind, I would be surprised if either of them was willing to speak with any reporter at this time.”

These are the stories of lawsuits involving Humphreys and Nice, reconstructed through court and police documents, which include interviews with and sworn testimony from the officers involved.

• • •

The man in the driveway was getting worked over. The neighbors watching had no doubts about that.

Across Southeast 85th Avenue, John Repp watched through his living room window.

What he heard sounded like “Sylvester Stallone in ‘Rocky,’ when … he was punching that cow in the meat market. If you took a stick and hit that, it makes kind of a ‘thwack.’ ”

He heard the man on the ground screaming as police officers punched, kicked and hit him with a metal baton.

“It was terrible to hear,” Repp said, “ … the guy was screaming for his life.”

Like other witnesses, Repp said he could not make out what the officers were telling the man, Chaz Miller. The officers said their commands were consistent — “Stop resisting!” or “Stop moving!” — but to most of the witnesses it just sounded like noise.

Deputy District Attorney Sean Riddell asked one witness, Mark Parkinson, whether Miller was struggling, resisting arrest.

“Now, would you think that Rodney King was struggling when he was just trying to get to his feet?” Parkinson asked in return. “Because what I saw was him laying on the ground being beat. I did not see him struggling. I saw him laying on the ground being beat.”

In the early morning of April 21, 2003, Humphreys drove his patrol car to 3205 S.E. 87th Ave. and met two other officers, Erik Strohmeyer and Lon Sweeney, who were following up on a domestic violence call a few hours earlier.

According to sworn testimony, a drunken boyfriend went into his girlfriend’s house, angry, and stopped her from calling 911. She tried to Mace him, and he pushed her down and took the canister, then sprayed her instead. She called the police after he left.

The boyfriend, whom she described as an olive-complexioned man with dark hair, left with a mutual friend, who was blond and fair-skinned. The mutual friend drove a Ford Ranger pickup.

The officers found the Ranger they were looking for, which they thought would contain the boyfriend, Paul Swayze, according to court testimony.

Strohmeyer and Humphreys knocked on the driver’s-side window. The blond man inside stirred, then laid back down. Strohmeyer knocked harder, announcing himself as a police officer and the man slowly sat up. Only later would they find out that he was Miller, the suspect’s friend.

Riddell asked Humphreys during the criminal trial whether the man in the truck made any gestures or movements.

“I knew he shook his head … kind of a side-to-side, like a no motion, … as we were to get him out of the vehicle,” Humphreys said, according to a transcript.

Strohmeyer threatened to break the window with his metal baton, and the man reached slowly toward the ignition.

Strohmeyer broke the window.

Humphreys moved toward the man in the truck and blasted him in the face with pepper spray.

Miller started the car and drove off. Sweeney maneuvered him to a stop a few blocks away.

Civilian witnesses said they saw Strohmeyer punch Miller in the head several times through the broken driver’s-side window, in between yelling at him to get out of the truck.

Humphreys was on the passenger side, trying to pull Miller out by the legs. He couldn’t get a good grip, so he pulled out his baton and began hitting Miller with it on soft tissue below the waist, as he said he was taught to do. He hit Miller with the baton between 10 and 12 times.

Parkinson, one of the neighbors, said he saw Miller, whom he knew, scramble out of the truck and go down in his driveway on Southeast 85th Avenue near Powell Boulevard at about 4:50 a.m.

Parkinson watched through a window as the officers surrounded Miller. Humphreys pulled out his baton again and swung it against Miller’s legs another 10 to 12 times while other officers wrestled with Miller.

Parkinson said he could see Miller clinging with one arm to the rear axle of a truck in Parkinson’s driveway.

Another officer showed up after Humphreys called for a Taser. Two 50,000-volt shocks with the Taser pressed up against Miller failed to subdue him.

“I mean, it basically had no effect … other than making him fight harder,” Humphreys testified.

The officer with the Taser backed up and fired the weapon’s barbed probes into Miller, and police handcuffed Miller.

“Describe what you saw of Miller’s body,” the public defender asked Repp’s son, David, who had watched from his bedroom window.

“A breathing corpse,” he said.

Police charged Miller with attempting to elude police in a vehicle, attempting to elude police on foot, reckless driving, reckless endangerment and resisting arrest. A jury acquitted him. Miller sued the city last year, and in February the city settled the case before trial, agreeing to pay $32,683.96 in damages and $59,485.24 in attorney’s fees.

• • •

Ron Barton woke up and got shot. That’s pretty much all he knew until people told him later what happened.

Two Portland cops, Nice and another officer, a rookie, thought he pointed a gun at them. Nice shot Barton in the left arm, sure that Barton aimed a shotgun at him in a right-handed pose.

Barton later passed a polygraph examination in which he said he never touched the gun. He also is left-handed. And lab tests showed no atomized blood on the shotgun, which would have been present if he had been holding it when he was shot.

After he was shot, as he collapsed facedown on the floor in his own blood, he cried out repeatedly, “What did I do?”

It was early in the evening, Aug. 24, 1997. Nice, then an officer, was the second cop to respond to a call of “threats” at 13953 S.E. Division St.

Barton lived in apartment No. 4 and had a running dispute with a neighbor over unauthorized cars taking up space in the parking lot.

Barton had been out with a friend, drinking beer. The neighbor’s mother stopped him in the parking lot when he started writing down license plate numbers.

The mother told Barton to watch out, that her son might shoot him. He told her the kid had better finish the job or he’d come looking for her son. When the son heard that, he called the police.

Barton was asleep — door open but screen door shut — on the couch in his living room. There was a phone next to his head. And when Nice and the rookie peered in, in bad light, they saw the stock of a shotgun on the couch nearby, which Barton later said he bought after being burglarized twice. He stuffed it into the couch cushions, safety on, and hadn’t touched it since, he said.

Nice and the rookie knocked “vigorously” on the door, according to police records, announcing themselves as police. Barton started moving.

Both officers believed that Barton wheeled the shotgun toward them. Nice raised his police bureau-issued Glock handgun, and fired it once through the screen door.

There were no civilian witnesses.

Police charged Barton with two counts of recklessly endangering another person. A jury acquitted him. After the civil trial for the lawsuit he filed afterward, the jury ruled for the city.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Commitment often not an option for the mentally ill

from The Oregonian, by Don Colburn

SERIES: MENTAL HEALTH: A SYSTEM UNDER STREETS (Second of two parts)

The fraying of Oregon's mental health safety net in the past few years has forced more chronically ill people into crisis situations that play out in hospital emergency rooms, courts and jails.

It also intensifies an already heated debate over civil commitment, the use of a court order to keep a mentally ill person in the hospital against his or her will for up to 180 days.

Civil commitment laws, designed as a buffer between the mental health system and the criminal justice system, date to the 19th century. But their tone has changed sharply over the years.

Oregon law allows involuntary hospitalization only for mentally ill people who pose an immediate danger to themselves or others. But defining "dangerous" is tricky, said Dr. Neil Falk, a psychiatrist and medical director for crisis services at Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, the largest provider of mental health care in Multnomah County. "That's a very subjective term."

Civil commitment of a person who refuses treatment poses a clash between two lofty principles: the right of an individual to be left alone and the societal need to protect people from harm, even from themselves. Lately, the outcome has tilted toward the individual.

"There are a lot of tough issues in mental health, but that one is the most contentious," said Lee Carty, spokeswoman for the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law in Washington, D.C. The controversy reflects a mental health system that is increasingly crisis-driven, she said.

"In the 1960s, we decided to empty the state hospitals," said Phil Chadsey, an attorney who works with Oregon's chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. "Basically, we put many of the mentally ill on the streets because we didn't fund outpatient services for them. It's a long, sad story."

A recent high-profile case in Portland raises questions about how police deal with people who are mentally ill. James P. Chasse Jr., 42, a man with schizophrenia, died Sept. 17 in police custody. The officers who confronted Chasse said they did not realize he was mentally ill.

In the aftermath, Portland Mayor Tom Potter and Police Chief Rosie Sizer vowed to give all officers training in dealing with the mentally ill. With recent cutbacks in mental health coverage and services, including critical cuts in the past three years, police increasingly find themselves on those front lines.

People see others on the street who are mentally ill and not doing well, and they wonder why the courts don't step in, said Mike Morris, a policy manager for the state Mental Health and Addiction Services division. But civil commitment means taking away someone's liberty even though that person hasn't committed a crime. "That's why it's a tough standard."

"It's always a balancing act," said Dr. Joseph Bloom, emeritus professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health & Science University. Bloom recently studied trends in civil commitment over the past 20 years in Oregon and concluded that it's becoming something of a legal endangered species.

A civil commitment typically begins when doctors or police bring a patient in crisis to a hospital for an emergency "hold" of up to five days. A county investigator looks into whether the person should be released or given a civil commitment hearing before a judge --who can order a psychiatric hospital stay of up to 180 days.

The number of holds in Oregon doubled between 1983 and 2003. But the commitment rate is half what it was 20 years ago, Bloom said.

In other words, fewer people placed on hold are moving to the next stage: a commitment hearing. Theoretically, that might be because they stabilize their lives with no need to stay in a hospital.

Unfortunately, that's not what usually happens, Bloom said.

"When you decrease civil commitments, as we have, you get more people in jail," he said. "We've directed a lot of mentally ill people either into the criminal justice system or onto the streets."

Between 10 percent and 15 percent of people jailed nationwide have a severe mental illness, according to a U.S. Justice Department guide for police published in May. A recent state report in Oregon found estimated that 20 percent of all jail and prison inmates have a mental illness.

"The jails are considered the biggest psychiatric holding areas," said Circuit Judge Lewis Lawrence, who hears most civil commitment cases in Multnomah County.

Fate decided in Room 220

No one commands, "All rise," when Lawrence enters Courtroom 220 in the Multnomah County Courthouse. He wears a white shirt and tie --no black judicial robe --and presides from an ordinary chair across an oval conference table from the patient.

It's here in Room 220 that some of the county's most vexing medical-legal-social interactions play out, in hearings that decide whether someone with a mental disorder should be civilly committed. The informality of the setting is aimed at making the proceedings less intimidating, Lawrence said.

An Oregon Court of Appeals ruling last month shows how hard it is to hospitalize a person against his will, even one who is delusional.

The appeals court overturned the involuntary commitment of a 29-year-old man with schizophrenia, Thomas R. Olsen. Olsen, who reported seeing leprechauns, had been hospitalized repeatedly. He had heard voices since he was 11 years old.

A county investigator concluded that Olsen was "totally unable to assist in any discharge planning or realistic discussion of his future," could not identify his medicines and had not arranged for outpatient care or a place to live.

But at his commitment hearing, Olsen asked to be released, saying he could take care of himself.

Two psychological examiners found Olsen delusional and potentially dangerous to himself. Judge Lawrence agreed and ordered him committed for 180 days.

Olsen appealed, and the Court of Appeals backed him.

"Delusional or eccentric behavior --even behavior that may be inherently risky --is not necessarily sufficient to warrant commitment," concluded Judge Jack Landau, writing for the court. Civil commitment is "not intended to be used as a 'paternalistic vehicle' to 'save people from themselves,' " he said.

Civil commitment "should not be a dumping ground for a failed mental health system," said Lance Perdue, Olsen's lawyer. "The courts are making a statement: You can't just have people locked up because they can't get services."

"There's a real struggle going on right now," Lawrence said, adding that the Olsen case typifies an intensifying dispute. When he started hearing civil commitment cases eight years ago, the Court of Appeals hardly ever overruled him.

That has changed dramatically.

"It has gone from a flood of affirmations to a flood of reversals," said Lawrence, 55, a judge for 22 years. "A lot of mentally ill people are going out on the street. The Court of Appeals believes they are protecting the freedom of the individual. But there's more than liberty at stake here."

A divisive trend

Civil libertarians hail the decades-long trend away from institutionalized care and civil commitment for those who refuse care. They say eccentric, reckless, even threatening behavior --without clear and immediate danger such as knife wielding --is not grounds for taking away someone's freedom and forcing treatment.

Others say the pendulum has swung too far, depriving patients of needed treatment and allowing some, as one psychiatrist put it, "to die with their rights on."

During the fiscal year ending June 30, Multnomah County had about 4,000 emergency holds. Most of those cases were soon dismissed, because the patient got past the immediate crisis or was not deemed sick enough and dangerous enough for a commitment hearing. But 380 reached the hearing stage, and about 300 patients were civilly committed --up slightly from the year before.

"We're seeing sicker people, a lot more (with) drug and alcohol problems and a lot more meth use," said Jean Dentinger, county supervisor for involuntary treatment. Still, nine of 10 hold cases are dropped. "That doesn't mean they don't need treatment," she said. "It means they no longer meet the legal criteria for being forced into treatment."

It's the hospital emergency staff's responsibility to try to link such patients --those who are willing --with help, if it can be found. Help could mean anything from medication or private counseling to a homeless shelter.

A major shift in Oregon commitment law came in 1973, when the standard changed from "unsafe to be at large" or "suffering from neglect, exposure or otherwise" to "dangerous to self or others." During the 1980s, as urban homelessness grew more visible, a backlash prompted some states --including Washington, but not Oregon --to broaden their laws to cover the "gravely disabled."

Civil commitment remains a crucial tool for people "who are seriously ill but don't have good insight into that fact," OHSU's Bloom said. But it's not enough by itself. "You can have the greatest civil commitment law in the world," he said, "but if you don't have any beds available, it's a train to nowhere."

"All the hospitals are full," said Bob Joondeph, executive director of the Oregon Advocacy Center, an independent group aimed at protecting the rights of the mentally and physically disabled. "It's a clogged system. It's hard to get in and hard to move through in a timely manner."

Multnomah County has lost nearly 200 psychiatric hospital beds in the past five years with the closure of Eastmoreland, Pacific Gateway and Woodland Park hospitals and the Crisis Triage Center at Providence Portland.

Conflicting definitions

One reason civil commitment poses such a dilemma, psychiatrist Falk said, is that the medical and legal definitions of "dangerous" are not the same --and may even conflict.

Consider, he said, a man who is homeless and psychotic, refuses to seek treatment and sleeps outdoors on a Portland sidewalk during a chilly, rainy winter. The man is vulnerable to hypothermia and to others on the street and sometimes acts aggressively toward passers-by. "Medically, you know the man needs treatment," Falk said. "But legally, it's a very high threshold."

The man probably wouldn't meet the legal commitment standard of being dangerous to himself or others, because he says he knows where the homeless shelter is and will go there if things get rough.

The issue has shifted radically, said Dr. Paul Appelbaum, head of psychiatry, law and ethics at Columbia University and a pst president of the American Psychiatric Association. The question used to be mainly medical: How sick is this person? Today, it's more complex; Is this person dangerous?

"It's extremely difficult for family members," Appelbaum said. "I've been called on innumerable occasions by families who say their loved one has left home and is wandering the streets and eating out of dumpsters.

"It's heartbreaking to tell them that under the law, unless the person can be shown to be dangerous, there may not be anything they can do."

Sunday, November 19, 2006

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR - 11/19/06

from The Oregonian

Hey, you work for us!

There is a fundamental misunderstanding at the core of many of our government's problems: They think we work for them.

But as any self-employed person will tell you, your boss is everyone who walks through your door. From the office of the president to the officers who killed James P. Chasse Jr., our public-sector employees are completely unaware they are in the service industry.

So to those of you who work in the public sector, be advised: You work for us. Get over it and your job title, and treat us like your next paycheck depends on it. Now get back to work!

JAMES OLSON
Lake Oswego

Oregon's mental care a tarnished model

from The Oregonian, by Michelle Roberts

Over the past three years, thousands of Oregonians have lost access to drop-in centers, counselors and other services created to treat people with mental illnesses before they become a serious danger to themselves or others.

The changes result from the lingering effects of budget cuts by the Legislature and the growing expense of closing the dilapidated Oregon State Hospital. But the consequences can be seen daily on the streets of Portland and other communities, where police increasingly encounter the mentally ill and more of them end up in jails.

Mental health officials say Oregon has taken an about-face, turning a system once praised as a national model for preventive care into one of triage, with police, crisis workers and emergency rooms feeling the brunt.

"We're spending a lot of resources to build new projects for people as they leave the state hospital," said Bob Nikkel, administrator of the state's Office of Mental Health and Addiction Services. "That's well and good, but they're expensive projects. . . . We haven't invested enough in the front end to keep people well."

In response, Nikkel's agency is proposing a 32 percent increase in state mental health spending over the next two years, with the bulk of the new money focused on community programs that have been squeezed.

The death last month of a 42-year-old man with schizophrenia who was fatally injured by Portland police during a street arrest has again placed the condition of Oregon's mentally ill population in the public eye.

James P. Chasse Jr. lived in subsidized downtown housing and had access to medication and professional help. As such, he was better off than many low-income Oregonians who are not so ill as to require hospitalization but instead depend on the web of state-funded mental health services provided in local communities.

The shrinkage in the system dates to 2003, when Oregon lawmakers moved to plug a recession-racked budget. They made it harder to qualify for medical insurance under the Oregon Health Plan, cutting 80,000 low-income residents from the rolls, including an estimated 13,000 who regularly used mental health services.

Separate cuts left some 2,000 mental health workers and drug and alcohol counselors without jobs. And lawmakers eliminated monthly stipends for the poor that many mentally ill people used to buy medicine or pay rent.

In the years since, lawmakers have poured millions back into mental health. But it has not offset all the reductions. Much has been eaten up by the cost of moving patients out of the state hospital, where conditions had become bad enough to prompt a civil rights lawsuit and an ongoing U.S. Justice Department investigation.

By the end of 2009, officials hope to cut the hospital's population of nearly 800 in half by placing patients in community facilities such as group homes or medium-security centers. Now, there are not enough such places to go around.

Troubled in Portland

In Portland, it's unusual to walk through some downtown areas without seeing people with untreated mental illnesses --often complicated by alcohol or drug addiction --slumped in doorways or mumbling at bus stops.

Police encounters with the mentally ill are on the rise, averaging about 40 a week last year in Portland. Calls to Project Respond, which provides mental health specialists to assist officers, are up 40 percent this year, according to Cascadia Behavioral Healthcare, the largest provider of mental health services in Multnomah County.

Recent budget restraints forced Cascadia to close four community drop-in centers for people with severe and chronic mental illnesses. Before the closures, the centers on a typical day served up to 300 people debilitated by brain disorders such as schizophrenia or bipolar disorder.

"A lot of the guys now are just walking around downtown," says John Shatokin, 58, a mental health client who attended the drop-in center in Southeast Portland until it closed. "They're not getting pills or going to classes. They're just wandering around and getting sicker."

Jerry Wiseman, 48, is a frequent visitor to the city's last remaining drop-in center at the Royal Palm Hotel in Northwest Portland. He said it's one of the few places he can avoid being hassled by police.

"It's very difficult because it seems like society doesn't want us anywhere else," Wiseman said. "They'd rather not see us and our problems."

Cascadia's medical director, Dr. Maggie Bennington-Davis, said the situation shows the system's fragility.

"When you stop paying for things, you put pressure on every other part of the system --hospital emergency rooms, jails, police, alcohol and drug, homeless shelters," Bennington-Davis said.

The situation can be desperate for those who need help and those trying to provide it.

Recently, a man in his 50s with schizophrenia showed up at a downtown Cascadia clinic asking for medication and a place to sleep, according to agency officials. Two emergency rooms had turned him away, the man said. When told there was nothing to offer him, he stabbed a caseworker in the chest with a pen.

Police arrested him for felony assault, and he ended up in jail --a common outcome.

A recent state report determined that up to 20 percent of all jail and prison inmates in Oregon are mentally ill. That is higher than a national estimate cited in a May publication by the Justice Department, which said 10 percent to 15 percent of people who are jailed have a severe mental illness.

Once a "shining example"

No one believes jails are the place to treat the mentally ill, especially in a state that 10 years ago had established itself as a leader in treating people with brain disorders in community settings.

"Most of us saw Oregon as a shining example in the country for community mental health," said Dr. John Talbott, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Maryland at Baltimore and a nationally recognized expert. "Then we saw you get the stuffing kicked out of you."

Talbott recently delivered a largely critical speech in Portland about Oregon's mental health system, saying the state relies too heavily on long-term hospitalization to treat difficult cases of mental illness.

Community mental health took a cut of $30 million, or 18 percent, three years ago. The effects were widespread. Some mental health clients lost access to medication. Others were evicted from group homes.

Although lawmakers put money back into the system in the current budget, not everything was restored.

The General Assistance Program, which provides stipends for disabled and low-income people who are unable to work, was eliminated. The benefit was only $314 a month, yet it allowed caseworkers to access treatment and housing programs that require mentally ill Oregonians to pay a percentage of their income to remain eligible.

General assistance also helped plug another gap in the system. The chronically mentally ill may apply for and receive federal disability benefits under Social Security. The benefits, usually at least $800 a month, are a lifeline. But qualifying can take as long as three years in Oregon because of a large case backlog.

Mentally ill people depended on the general assistance money to make co-payments and pay rent until federal benefits began. "Now they have nothing," said Leslie Ford, Cascadia's executive director.

Alcohol and drug services for those who work but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid were reduced $3 million at the end of 2003. That put more than 1,000 drug and alcohol counselors out of work and eliminated nearly 10 percent of the state's treatment beds, state officials said.

Experts say that up to half those with mental health problems also are substance abusers. The alcohol and drug services haven't been restored.

The community mental health cuts forced agencies across the state to lay off another 1,000 people who worked directly with mentally ill people. Caseworkers who once managed 30 or 40 clients now handle more than 100.

Also eliminated was the state's Medically Needy Program, which covered more than 9,000 Oregonians who had unusually high medication expenses but didn't qualify for Medicaid. "Several thousand people who lost that program had mental illnesses," said Madeline Olson, a deputy state mental health administrator.

The Oregon Health Plan was designed as a way to expand eligibility for health coverage under Medicaid to the working poor. But the 2003 cuts limited enrollment to 20,000, down from 100,000, and stricter rules make it harder for patients who do qualify to stay on the plan, Ford said.

"If they make one mistake, like missing a premium payment, they're off it," she said.

The collective result of all the cuts, Ford and others say, is that thousands of people with mental illnesses can't get help until they are so sick that a judge commits them to a hospital for their own safety. But with the Oregon State Hospital slated for closure, and alternatives still works in progress, that creates new pressures.

State hospital overcrowded

The Oregon State Hospital houses nearly 700 patients and has long struggled with inadequate staffing, poor physical conditions, overcrowding and violence.

Most residents are forensic patients --those who have been found guilty of crimes except for insanity. Empty beds for civil commitment patients are virtually nonexistent, which leads to crowding in acute care hospitals and emergency rooms.

Eleven months ago, the Oregon Advocacy Center, a federally financed watchdog group for people with disabilities, sued the state to force a staffing increase and improve safety and quality of care at the hospital.

The Legislature acted quickly. Meeting in emergency session last spring, lawmakers approved $9.2 million from reserves for staff and community placements for patients who could be helped in less-restrictive facilities.

The lawsuit was settled, but scrutiny remains intense. The Justice Department alerted Gov. Ted Kulongoski in June that it would investigate whether patients' constitutional rights were violated at the hospital. Department investigators visited the hospital last week.

Improving conditions at the hospital will help patients. But state officials say they must also create new inpatient and community-based alternatives for current hospital residents and future patients.

The state hired a San Francisco architectural firm last year to assess what to do with the hospital. That led to a bipartisan plan to replace the hospital with four new facilities at a cost of up to $334 million. Decisions about the location, design and financing for the facilities are on the 2007 Legislature's agenda.

Oregon spends large sums on mental health and addiction --$352 million in the current two-year budget, not counting federal dollars. The biggest share, $174 million, goes to community mental health.

The latter sum includes a $40 million increase from the prior budget, but officials say about 40 percent of that is being absorbed by the state hospital transition.

Nikkel's office is asking for a huge increase --$113 million --in the 2007-09 budget submitted to Kulongoski. The bulk of that increase is targeted at community services.

"We can't turn away from the hospital's problems," Nikkel said. "But it's become clear that until we invest state general fund dollars in front-end services, we'll never get ahead of this process."

In 2004, the Governor's Mental Health Task Force issued a "Blueprint for Action" calling for improvements in care for mentally ill Oregonians of all ages. But only two of its 10 proposals have been enacted. One is a parity law, effective next year, which requires private health insurers to provide equal coverage of both mental and physical illness. The other provision suspends rather than terminates Medicaid benefits when someone is jailed.

Parity helps Oregonians with private insurance but does not increase access to care for the poor.

"We need to be directing our resources into the development of community systems that keep people out of hospitals," said Bennington-Davis. "We ought to be paying attention to what works nationwide --everything we know that does has been cut in the last year or so. We're going in the wrong direction."

Kulongoski declined an interview request. But Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, who sponsored parity legislation in 2005, said he will push for mental health reforms in the upcoming Legislature.

"The whole system is in need of repair and has been for years," he said. "Parity gave us a foundation and now we've got to build on it. I'm going to predict we're going to make more progress in the next 10 years than we have in the past 75."

Thursday, November 16, 2006

What Homer Saw

From Willamette Week

According to Portland Police Bureau documents released Thursday, local developer Homer Willams —the man responsible for the construction of much of the Pearl District—witnessed part of the police confrontation with James Chasse Jr. on Sept. 17 as he dined at Bluehour, one of the ritzy neighborhood's premier restaurants.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Witnesses Contradict Cops On Chasse "Push"

from Willamette Week

None of six civilian witnesses to the police takedown of James Chasse Jr. agreed with the Portland Police Bureau's official story that the mentally ill man was pushed—rather than tackled—to the ground during his fatal encounter with cops on Sept. 17.

Police issued a "fact sheet" a month after Chasse's death, which a coroner ruled was caused by blunt-force trauma suffered in Chasse's tangle with several officers. The “fact sheet” reads: “Did officers tackle Mr. Chasse?" It then provides an answer: "One officer used his forearm to push Mr. Chasse to the ground to end the foot pursuit, which is consistent with Bureau training.”

But not a single civilian witness describes such a push in the newly released documents.

Additional accounts of the events leading up to Chasse’s death have emerged in hundreds of new pages released to the public for the first time Thursday, and may step up pressure on Police Chief Rosie Sizer and Mayor Tom Potter for explanations of that discrepancy.

The medical examiner ruled Chasse's fatal injuries most likely occurred when Officer Christopher Humphreys fell on top of him. Police came under fire when other statements made by the three officers involved, which came out before the more recently released witnesses’ statements, didn’t match the bureau's “fact sheet."

At that time, police spokesman Sgt. Brian Schmautz said the “fact sheet” was assembled from the totality of the evidence, including the then-confidential witness accounts.

Of the nine people who saw the initial takedown or its immediate aftermath, including the three officers involved, only one person (Humphreys) described something similar to the “fact sheet”—a version that just happens to conform to police procedures.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

James Chasse Jr., artist and model

from PORT

At this point, most Portland residents are familiar with the story of James Chasse's tragic, unconscionable death in police custody. Out-of-towners and those who are a little hazy on the details can read about the incident here.

As a teenager in the late 70's and early 80's, Chasse was a friend of several longtime members of the local art scene, including Eva Lake and Randy Moe. In his late teens, Chasse changed dramatically after developing schizophrenia, which he struggled with until his death on September 17th, 2006. When Moe and Lake learned that Chasse had been killed, they were already preparing for an exhibition of Moe's portraits at Chambers Gallery, which Lake manages. Presciently entitled, It's a Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad World, the show has been expanded to include a portrait of Chasse and a binder filled with photocopies of The Oregon Organism, a zine Chasse created while in his early teens. Moe used an old polaroid photograph of a 14-year old Chasse, affectionately known as 'Jim Jim,' as the source for his memorial portrait.

The art of portraiture has always been intertwined with the fundamental human concerns of empathy and mortality. These issues are brought to the forefront in Moe's portrait of Jim Jim, which he created while working through feelings of grief, frustration and regret. Upon first encountering the momento polaroid--which Eva posted on her blog shortly after Chasse's death--I was struck by just how important a sympathetic portrait's illumination of its subject can be. News images of Chasse had been small, mug shot-style records of a man's appearance.

This image showed much more: a sensitive soul, playful but with an underlying melancholy. Eva and Randy have both commented that Jim Jim was shockingly bright and philosophical for someone his age. Both kept artwork created by Chasse, and their recollections inform an article that subsequently appeared in The Oregonian, Losing 'Jim Jim': a story of schizophrenia, authored by Maxine Bernstein.

Some of the most striking passages from Losing 'Jim Jim' involve former classmates' recollections of Chasse's odd behavior, elucidating the tenuous boundaries between artistic creativity, the imaginative world of childhood, and the pain of delusional paranoia:
"(Jason) Renaud called his classmate a 'bit of a mystery.' He remembers his obsession with putting his hand in a fist. 'He'd say if he opened his hand, the world would cease to exist,' Renaud said. 'It was clear the weight of the world was on his shoulders.'

Another classmate, Ani Raven, remembers Chasse as a student who kept to himself. But she and her best friend often sought him out because they liked him, and they'd find him in Couch Park near the school.

'Sometimes he told me that he talked to Saint Francis . . . he wanted to be like him, gentle to all beings,' Raven wrote in an e-mail about Chasse. Chasse, Raven said, gave her a white crayon, with a thread tied to one end, saying it represented purity in a corrupt world. More than 20 years later, she still has the crayon."


Eva Lake stresses the importance of Jim Jim's creativity, an aspect of his personality that she believes is deserving of more attention. Lake comments, "Jim Jim was an artist: someone who did drawings very similar to what is hot now ~ very juvenile yet sophisticated. This was Jim Jim to the core. Yet the drawings were very spot-on... he drew the Ramones and the Wipers to perfection. Jim Jim was in a band later on, the Possum Society. The name came from the fact that police were caught throwing possums at black-owned businesses and homes back in the early 80's here. Odd that even then he had this strange relationship with the police." A perusal of The Oregon Organism reveals ominous foreshadowing on par with that in Elliot Smith's last album. The police and death are both mentioned frequently, occasionally in the same sentence. While he seems to have had his share of demons at a tender age, the Chasse of The Oregon Organism was willing and able to take a playful swipe back at them.

Chasse was the embodiment of the early punk rock ethos, a bold, wry social observer who wasn't afraid to make light of himself or others, a passionate fan of The Wipers and The Ramones, a frequent attender of concerts who raged against the unfairness of '21 and over only' shows, a DIY writer, artist and organizer. Far from the work of a self-absorbed loner, his "letters from the editor" show how eager he was to collaborate with other artists and writers and to spread good news about his favorite bands. By turns provocative, enthusiastic, and absurdist, Chasse always wrote in his own distinctive voice.

As a critic, I particularly enjoy his reviews. As with his illustrations, Chasse takes a standard format and makes it his own by subtly undermining its logic or carrying a traditional tone to laughable extremes. From a review of Public Image, Ltd:

"Public Image first issue--a lot better than the Pistols album for the simple reason it's just better, in every aspect.....'Fodderstompf,' my favorite cut on this LP, is a disco takeoff, with castrato vocals, et al!...'Annalisa' seems to be a love song (?), what are we coming to Mr. Lydon? BUY THIS RECORD it is under urging recommendation."

He lampoons both the adult world of traditional newspaper writing and the conventions of busywork literature for kids. Instructions on how to draw Debbie Harry show three stick figures, each with slightly more detail with the last, then a finished picture of Debbie that looks nothing like the stick figures. "Find the mistakes:" commands a banner over a pencil drawing of an idyllic scene. The mistakes, it turns out, are:

1. molecules in left hand corner are blue!
2. man has no legs.
3. the cumulous clouds are too thin!

I could cite many more examples of young Jim Jim's adorable sense of humor, but I encourage everyone to check out The Oregon Organism at Chambers Gallery and behold it for yourselves. I also encourage everyone to check out Randy Moe's striking portraits at the same location.

At a candlelight vigil held for James Chasse on October 27, Eva Lake read a few of his poems. His poetry, she says, "was probably where he shined the most." The following poem, previously featured in The Oregon Organism, seems to capture something of both the enthusiastic teenager he was and the troubled man he would become.
silent snow, secret snow by jim

crush my radio, wreck my t.v. oh no! what'll i do! i see snow
the mailman doesn't come anymore
oh no! i see snow
snow in my room, snow in my room
reality stays away from my front door
i just can't relate anymore
the mailman doesn't come anymore
took my telephone off the hook
on my bed, i see snow
what will i do? oh no! snow in my room, snow in my room
silent snow, secret snow
reality is my only foe

It's a Sad, Sad, Sad, Sad World will remain on view at Chambers, located at 207 SW Pine St. No. 102, through Nov. 30. Hours are Wed.-Sat. 12-6pm and by appointment. For more information, call the gallery at 503.227.9398.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Cops need specialized training

Letters to the Editor, from the Portland Tribune

It has come to my attention that the Memphis plan for Crisis Intervention Team training in Portland seeks “well-spoken” mental health consumers who have had recent experience being arrested by local police.

There are very few people around who fit the criteria.

Well-spoken mental health consumers typically have been in recovery or remission for years, their arrest or homeless experiences would then likely have been 15 or more years ago.

Consumers with recent arrest records – mostly for “nuisance” crimes – tend not to be considered well-spoken for many reasons. Some, like James Chasse Jr., may have lost previously exceptional well-spokenness, due to onset of mental illness.

Other people may have lost their benefits due to funding cuts and, thus, are unable or unwilling to connect with available health services.

A few years ago, training the Portland police to work with people who have mental illness was done by those people who live with these disorders – the Consumer Political Awareness and Action Group at the mental health drop-in center at Unity Inc. downtown. I was the facilitator.

Since the Memphis training program limits police training to contact with only “well-spoken” mental health consumers (folks they’re quite unlikely to meet on the streets), I would urge Mayor Tom Potter and Chief Rosie Sizer to require interactive, adjunct training with a representative cross-section of community mental health consumers.

Prior to the training I helped facilitate, many people who received care at Unity Inc. were so frightened of police, they wouldn’t even come to trainings run by those outside the mental health community.

But during the Unity Inc. training, people answered any questions the officers had, and they answered our questions, too.

We were delighted to help train the officers. Police participants seemed very glad to relate to us on an equal basis (perhaps for the first time). It would have been almost fun, had it not been so momentous.

Marian Drake
Northeast Portland

Police get in way of reform efforts

The Oct. 31 article “Force, by numbers” was a good investigative report and a good start at shedding light on the police and their behavior.

In the story, Portland Police Association President Robert King said: “I don’t think any of these numbers mean anything. Even gathering the data in the first place was a mistake because this is just going to be used as a tool to criticize us, and it’s criticism that we don’t need and don’t deserve.”

That succinctly captures the attitude that makes reforming this department so difficult.

It’s clear that the political will is still not there, especially with an ex-chief of police as mayor. But with sufficient exposure, we can turn what is in effect an occupying army into civil servants.

Tom Shillock
Northeast Portland

Files detail Chasse's final days

from The Oregonian, by Maxine Bernstein

When a Project Respond mental health worker and a Portland officer came to check on James P. Chasse Jr. on Sept. 15, Chasse came out of his apartment, spotted the uniformed officer and repeatedly chanted, "Don't hurt me," before he ran out of the building.

Project Respond, an agency of mental health professionals who do crisis response and outreach, had gone to Chasse's Northwest Broadway unit after receiving reports from Chasse's mental health case manager that he wasn't eating, and reportedly was urinating and defecating on his carpet.

When Chasse ran from the building, Officer Jason Worthington asked Project Respond worker Ela Howard if he should chase after Chasse.

Howard said no.

But she advised the officer to flag Chasse, a 42-year-old who suffered from schizophrenia, in the police database as one of their clients and to page her agency for assistance if police encountered him again, according to newly released police reports.

Two days later, when other officers spotted Chasse on the street, nothing was flagged in the Portland Police Bureau's database to call out Project Respond mental health specialists because no system exists to do that, said Sgt. Brian Schmautz, Portland police spokesman.

Police records noted Chasse as possibly mentally ill, yet police say it wouldn't have made a difference because the officers who confronted him Sept. 17 had no idea who he was until after his arrest.

Chasse died in police custody on Sept. 17. Two Portland officers and a Multnomah County sheriff's deputy had struggled to arrest Chasse once they saw him shuffling on a street corner and possibly urinating behind a bush. Police said he ran when they approached. They chased him, knocked him to the ground and struggled to handcuff him.

Chasse died from broad-based blunt-force trauma to the chest, an autopsy found. He suffered 26 breaks to 16 ribs, some of which punctured his left lung. A Multnomah County grand jury found no criminal wrongdoing.

On Thursday, seven weeks after Chasse's death, the Police Bureau released more than 1,000 pages of investigative reports stemming from its criminal investigation of Chasse's death.

The reports reveal his mother's and caseworker's concerns about Chasse's mental health in the weeks preceding his death; witnesses' accounts, including a Portland attorney who said Chasse never ran from police; and statements by the Multnomah County jail nurse who said she looked at Chasse through a cell door window for less than 11/2 minutes and thought his five-second seizure could have been faked.

Police declined to release any medical records they obtained on Chasse, but a detective's report summarizes some of their findings. Chasse had a case manager from Cascadia Behavioral Health Care. From the case manager's progress reports between Aug. 17 and Sept. 13, there are indications that Chasse was not taking his medication, had quit bathing and was urinating in the hallways of the Helen Swindells Building where he had a second-floor room.

An Aug. 17 Cascadia progress note said it was likely that Chasse would need hospitalization to help him go back on medication and regain the ability to care for his basic needs, Detective Jon Rhodes wrote in his reports. It also said the caseworker would try to avoid an eviction by continuing assessments.

Chasse had at least two contacts with his mother, Linda Gerber, in August and in mid-September. Gerber told the caseworkers that she was concerned her son wasn't eating and was losing weight and wearing dirty clothing.

Force alarms witnesses

Transcripts of the witnesses' interviews show there were various accounts of how Chasse was knocked to the ground. But several eyewitnesses expressed concern about excessive force right from the start, one even asking to speak to a supervisor at the scene.

Portland lawyer Mark Ginsberg, who was in his car on Northwest 13th Avenue, stopped at the Everett Street intersection, said he saw two officers walk up to a scruffy-looking man who was standing on the sidewalk. Ginsberg didn't think Chasse was urinating. When officers approached him, Chasse took a pivot step, and then the officers tackled him. He said he thought one officer did a "flying tackle," like a football tackle, and landed on top of Chasse as they hit the ground.

"He took maybe one step and then . . . the officers were just on top of him," Ginsberg said in an Oct. 4 interview with detectives.

Alireza Justin Soltani, a computer consultant who lives in the Pearl District, said he was driving east on Everett Street when he saw Chasse. He said Chasse was standing on the south sidewalk, leaning against a parking meter. When police walked up to Chasse, he started screaming as though he was panic-stricken, Soltani said.

"When you saw him, I definitely thought he was mentally challenged because of the way he was yelling," Soltani said.

Soltani saw Officer Christopher Humphreys tackle Chasse. "The officer was half-twisted on him," Soltani said. The police struggled to hold Chasse down.

"The guy was just squirming . . . like a fish out of water, just squirming," Soltani said.

According to Soltani, Humphreys kept tapping Chasse in the forehead with his forefinger or middle finger --something no other witness recounted.

Employee recalls "chaos"

Jamie Marquez, an employee of Bluehour restaurant at the corner, was on the outdoor patio when he saw Chasse knocked to the ground and heard his high-pitched screams, "No!" as officers ordered him to get on his stomach.

Marquez first described it as a football tackle, "like you know a nose guard tackling into the quarterback." He said the officers didn't have Chasse in a bear hug, but just threw Chasse to the ground, and "they went down with him, too."

He said the officers punched Chasse in the face and kicked him in the back of his head. He said it quickly escalated into "complete chaos" and a "state of disarray." He said he thought Chasse stopped breathing.

"The cops kinda kicked his body with their foot to try to get him to move," Marquez said. "He wasn't moving."

Marquez watched police handcuff Chasse and tie his feet behind him to his wrists. Marquez ran into the restaurant and grabbed his cell phone to take photos, which he e-mailed to detectives. He said he heard Chasse scream, "No, don't leave me, don't leave me," once a female paramedic stepped away.

"It just kinda made me ill," Marquez said.

Another witness, Constance Doolan, later complained to detectives because she said an officer at the scene told her that they found crack cocaine on Chasse and that he had 14 prior drug convictions.

There were no drugs in Chasse's system, and he has no prior criminal record.

American Medical Response paramedics who evaluated Chasse at the scene refused to be interviewed by detectives. Their attorney, Jean Ohman Back, told detectives the company was concerned that AMR interview transcripts would be discoverable in any future civil litigation, the police reports say. They told grand jurors that they found Chasse's vital signs to be normal, and policedrove him to jail.

"We're not takin' him"

At the jail, nurse Patricia Gayman said she heard a deputy say, "We don't think he's breathing," over an intercom. She grabbed a pair of gloves and went to the separation cell. The door was closed, and several officers were standing around it. She looked through the cell door window and saw that Chasse was breathing and moving. Then he seemed to have a five-second seizure. "His body stiffened, and then he started to shake," she said. "Before he even stopped that little seizure, I said, 'He's gotta go out, we're not takin' him."

She said she didn't go inside the cell because Chasse had no restraints on, and the door was closed and she assumed he was violent. She said she defers to officers as to whether they think a person is safe to approach and that she has gone into a separation cell "many times" in the past. There was no discussion as to whether Chasse should be taken by ambulance to a hospital.

As police drove Chasse to Portland Adventist Hospital, they noticed he had slumped against the passenger door. They pulled off Interstate 84 at Northeast 33rd Avenue and dragged Chasse from the car. They tried chest compressions and called an ambulance.

Witness Michael Gentry said he saw the medics working on Chasse. They "kept pumping his chest, kept pumping it, and they just kept trying, and we were just like, dude, he's getting whiter and whiter."

Chasse was pronounced dead at Providence Hospital.

Investigative records released in Chasse death

from the Associated Press

Two days before James Chasse died, a mental health worker asked a Portland police officer to put him in the department's data base as a patient and to call her agency if he was found.

Two days later, when officers encountered him on the street in Portland's trendy Pearl district, they had no idea who he was because the police department has no system to prompt a call to a mental health worker, the department's spokesman, Brian Schmautz, said.

The Portland Police Bureau released a thousand pages of investigative records into the death of the 42-old-man with schizophrenia. Chasse died Sept. 17 in a struggle with officers who thought he was urinating in public. A grand jury has found no criminal wrongdoing, and his family has criticized the handling of the case.

The records recount the visit Officer Jason Worthington and mental health worker Ela Howard of Project Respond visited Chasse's apartment, answering to reports that he wasn't eating and was urinating and defecating on his carpet. A detective's report says that medical records suggest that during the autumn, Chasse was not taking his medication and had quit bathing.

Seeing Worthington, in uniform, Chasse fled and chanted, "Don't hurt me," according to the report. The officer asked the mental health worker if he should pursue, the reports say. She said no but asked that Chasse be flagged in the police data base.

A restaurant worker who saw the encounter from a patio said Chasse screamed "No!" as officers ordered him to get on his stomach, the records said.

Jamie Marquez first described it as a football tackle, "like you know a nose guard tackling into the quarterback." He said the officers didn't have Chasse in a bear hug, but threw him to the ground, and "they went down with him, too."

"The cops kinda kicked his body with their foot to try to get him to move," Marquez said. "He wasn't moving."

Chasse was taken to the jail, where he appeared to suffer a seizure, the reports said, and then to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Tarnished Badges: A KATU investigative report

from KATU.com
CLICK THIS LINK TO WATCH VIDEO - opens in pop-up.

How hard is it to fire a cop?

A KATU News investigation has uncovered a chronic problem facing police chiefs and county sheriffs: it's difficult to get rid of problem police officers since there is often no clear line between what can, and cannot, get a police officer fired.

One example is Ron Lister. He's a police officer in the city of Molalla, where he carries a gun and a badge.

But the district attorney in Clackamas County believes Lister lied in at least four of his investigations.

The district attorney's office refuses to hear cases he's involved in. As a result, there's a lot officer Lister can't do.

In the past five months, Lister has not written one traffic ticket, and in the past year and 10 months he has not investigated one felony crime.

Officer Lister is one of three cops in the area who are in a state of law enforcement limbo.

There's also Portland officer Joe Hanousek. He's accused of lying to investigators about police evidence.

In a widely publicized case, Multnomah County Sheriff's Deputy Christopher Greene is accused of forcing women to undress during traffic stops.

All three are law enforcement officers, but they now work in limited roles because the district attorney won't use them as witnesses.

And taxpayers are paying for them to keep their badges.

Molalla Police Chief Jerry Giger says that as a senior officer, Ron Lister is at the top of the pay scale in the department, pulling down about $50,000 a year. Chief Giger says he thinks it’s a waste of money.

So what do police officers have to do to get fired? It turns out Oregon has a long history of terminating cops who have broken the law. But the line between what gets you fired, and what doesn't, is not clear.

In recent history, there are some officers that have been terminated.

Brandon Tomkins was a King City police officer who was fired after he was accused of sexually abusing a teenager he met online.

David Verbos was fired for robbing pharmacies in a recent well-known case. He faces state and federal felony charges.

Benton County sergeant Jack Burright was fired for lying about his education and training credentials, and Portland officer John Rebman was let go for hiring prostitutes on duty and using his police radio to avoid other officers.

Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto says the bottom line is you have to break the law to lose your badge.

"If the elements of a crime occur, we have a chance of getting rid of them," Giusto said. "But that shouldn't be the standard in this state There are certain things we expect of law enforcement officers, certain reasons we allow them into our homes, certain reasons we give them the authority to arrest, certain reasons we trust our families to them if we have to turn them over to them temporarily or we turn our kids over to them."

The Department of Public Safety Standards and Training certifies officers and is the ultimate authority in terminating bad cops. Without the board's approval, a person can't wear a badge.

The department certifies 11,000 criminal justice professionals in Oregon. This year the agency has closed 302 cases against officers.

In 49 of those cases, the officer lost his or her badge.

However, in 84 percent of the cases, the officer kept their badge.

Five cases illustrate there's no clear line between what gets you fired and what doesn't.

One officer lied to investigators, another officer lies about being sick, one cop is arrested for domestic violence and drunk driving, and another just for drunk driving.

Finally, an officer was disciplined for drug use, drunk driving and weapons violations.

Of those five cases, only two resulted in a loss of certification.

Back in Molalla, Officer Lister has not been convicted of a crime, but the district attorney says he is not a credible witness. Police chief Jerry Giger tried to fire him, but union rules forced his case to go to an arbitrator and he got his job back.

Officer Lister says a police officer's job "isn't just writing tickets. There's a lot of other things that happen other than just write tickets."

Chief Giger says one of highest paid of Molalla's 12 police officers is virtually useless. "We don't have him specifically taking calls or working traffic, so he's just out there performing a patrol function more as a 'be seen by the public' and that's about the extent of how we can utilize him."

Report details Chasse's last days before death in police custody


from the Associated Press

Two days before James Chasse died, a mental health worker asked a Portland police officer to put him in the department's data base as a patient and to call her agency if he was found.

Medics and police check on a man who later died in police custody.

Two days later, when officers encountered him on the street in Portland's trendy Pearl district, they had no idea who he was because he ran away, the department's spokesman, Brian Schmautz, said.

The Portland Police Bureau released a thousand pages of investigative records into the death of the 42-old-man with schizophrenia. Chasse died Sept. 17 in a struggle with officers who thought he was urinating in public. A grand jury has found no criminal wrongdoing, and his family has criticized the handling of the case.

The records recount the visit Officer Jason Worthington and mental health worker Ela Howard of Project Respond visited Chasse's apartment, answering to reports that he wasn't eating and was urinating and defecating on his carpet. A detective's report says that medical records suggest that during the autumn, Chasse was not taking his medication and had quit bathing.

Seeing Worthington, in uniform, Chasse fled and chanted, "Don't hurt me," according to the report. The officer asked the mental health worker if he should pursue, the reports say. She said no but asked that Chasse be flagged in the police data base.

A restaurant worker who saw the encounter from a patio said Chasse screamed "No!" as officers ordered him to get on his stomach, the records said.

Jamie Marquez first described it as a football tackle, "like you know a nose guard tackling into the quarterback." He said the officers didn't have Chasse in a bear hug, but threw him to the ground, and "they went down with him, too."

"The cops kinda kicked his body with their foot to try to get him to move," Marquez said. "He wasn't moving."

Chasse was taken to the jail, where he appeared to suffer a seizure, the reports said, and then to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Thursday, November 9, 2006

Defusing crises dispelling myths

from The Oregonian, by Aimee Green

Two years ago deputies responding to a call of a resident disturbing the peace shot and killed the woman after she charged them with a knife. The residents, a Clackamas County mental health worker has advised the deputies, are still a little on edge.

The visit is part of the sheriff's office's third semiannual training devoted to teaching officers how to better handle encounters involving people who are mentally ill, who often don't respond well to traditional police commands and techniques and who might act unpredictably at times of crisis.

The sessions begins.

A woman with ice-blue eyes and bangs pinned back with a sparkly clip asks the deputies why they have to carry guns. Guns, she says, petrify her. She's seen what police do with them on TV.

The police officers assure her they use their guns only in true emergencies --not like the actors on TV.

Another resident wants to know whether police stereotype mentally ill people.

"Do you automatically put us in a box?" she asks.

"Do you think mentally ill people have hotter tempers than other people?" asks another.

And another resident chimes in: "Don't you have a code --1151 or something --to refer to us?"

"It's 1234," answers one of the deputies, adding that the categorization is only used so police can better help the person in mental crisis. "The police officer will hear that and start asking questions: 'How are you doing?' 'What do you need?' "

By the end of the exchange, the room appears to have warmed some. The residents appear a little more relaxed, and the police officers, too.

The training --known as Crisis Intervention Training --was held late last month. It is the third since Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts took office in January 2005 and said his office must better equip deputies to deal with the increasing number of calls about people in mental crisis.

Roberts said he recognized the need a few years ago as a detective when he responded to the call near Oregon 212 in the Boring area. Roberts showed up to find a suicidal man who'd doused himself with two cans of gasoline and was holding a cigarette lighter.

"I thought 'This is absurd,' " said Roberts, realizing he didn't have training to draw upon. Roberts was able to talk the man into surrendering but felt he was grasping for what to say or do.

Jail data show that as many as 28 percent of Clackamas County Jail inmates have a diagnosed mental illness. But officials say the true percentage of inmates who have mental illnesses --diagnosed or not --is probably much higher.

Sgt. Nick Watt, who helped developed the crisis intervention course, estimates that 50 percent of the calls he responds to involve someone with mental health issues a suicidal person, a car thief on mind-altering methamphetamine, or a combative person yelling at anyone who passes by.

The dangers of police encounters with mentally ill people have been highlighted recently by high-profile incidents in the Portland area, including the September death in police custody of James P. Chasse Jr., a man police thought was on drugs or drunk but who actually suffered from schizophrenia.

In Clackamas County, there have been several incidents in which police shot and killed people acting irrationally or exhibiting mental problems --including Clint Carey, a 24-year-old Carver man who in 2005 duct-taped a knife to his hand and then charged at deputies; Fouad Kaady, a 27-year-old Gresham man who was reportedly growling, naked and non-compliant to police commands in 2005; and Joyce Staudenmaier, the Chez Ami resident shot in 2004, who had battled schizophrenia for nearly three decades.

Clackamas County's 40-hour class teaches participants about the gamut of mental illnesses and the drugs used to treat them. Participants hear mental health experts' advice on how police should approach and speak to people with mental disorders. They also act out scenarios they might encounter in the field.

Portland, and in more recent years, Washington and Marion counties, also have crisis intervention training. Portland Mayor Tom Potter recently said he wants every patrol officer on the Portland Police force to go through the city's 40-hour course, which during the past 12 years has been voluntary.

And starting in January, the state's police academy will increase classroom instruction on how to interact with mentally ill people from three hours to 12. Students seeking a basic police officer certification also will undergo eight to 10 hours of scenario-based training.

In Clackamas County, 75 members of law enforcement --including about three dozen sheriff's deputies and three dozen officers from police departments including Lake Oswego, Oregon City, Canby and Sandy --have been through the sheriff's training. Roberts said his goal is to train all 91 of his patrol deputies in the next few years. So far, he's about a third of the way there.

Sharing experiences

After a few days of intensive classroom training, the Clackamas County class breaks into small groups to tour apartments and group homes of people with mental illnesses; Portland Adventist's psychiatric ward, where police often bring people who are threatening to harm themselves or others; and the Hooper detox center in Portland, where police drop off people intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.

The visits give officers opportunities to interact with people with mental illnesses and those who treat them.

A Milwaukie group home manager tells visiting officers that it's a good idea to turn off overhead lights and sirens when responding to incidents at her group home. Lights and sirens can stir bad memories.

A woman who suffers from depression tells officers that she doesn't like handcuffs because they make her feel like a criminal. And a man tells officers that a little bit of leeway goes a long way with him --he still remembers the officer who let him keep his chewing tobacco in his mouth as he was driving to jail.

At the Chez Ami Apartments, resident Susan Funk tells the deputies that she's happy to talk to them about her police encounters because she wants them to see what she's like 80 percent of the year.

"You only know me when I'm freaking out, and that's why I come to these (trainings)," says Funk, 40, who was diagnosed 17 years ago with bipolar disorder.

Funk is clear-headed, witty and pointed in her conversation with deputies. She says if they happen to encounter her on a bad day, they should try to treat her with respect. She doesn't respond well to harsh commands or force.

"Try to be nice to me if you can," she said. "Try not to corner me. Because that would make me feel like I want to fight and struggle."

Funk also shares her take on the small number of police encounters that go bad.

"It's not only a failure of police," Funk says. "It's also a failure of family, the community and the mental health staff who have not been able to intervene."

Not just a police issue

Funk's statements about mental health officials, family and friends stepping in before a person with mental illness reaches a state of crisis ring true with Watt, who helped develop the class. Watt, the Clackamas sergeant who helped develop the program, says that clearly many people who need help aren't getting or seeking the help --and police are the ones called at the last minute when mentally ill people act out in troubling ways.

Officers can't force a mentally ill person to seek treatment unless that person is presenting a safety threat. In those cases, police try to find a hospital placement, but Watt says too often beds at Portland-area hospitals are full. Once, Watt says, the only bed he could find for an emotionally disturbed person was in Roseburg, 175 miles south.

What's more, admittance to a hospital for psychiatric help might only be a short-term fix, because psychiatric staff release the person once the immediate threat has passed. Too often, mental health experts say, people refuse additional treatment.

Police and mental health officials attribute the rise in mental health-related calls to a fundamental change in philosophy about how to treat people. People with severe mental illnesses used to be institutionalized, said Jessica Leitner, program manager for the county's behavioral health division.

But closing Dammasch State Hospital in the mid-1990s signaled a change in that philosophy in Oregon: Mental health experts came to believe that people with mental health issues were best placed in smaller community treatment facilities, group homes or their own homes.

Having more people with mental health issues living in the community, however, makes contacts with local police more likely.

Eric Cederholm, who has been diagnosed with chronic depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, was eager to talk to crisis-intervention class participants during their visit to his Milwaukie group home. He wants to offer them support.

While training is good, he said, he wants them to know that they won't always be able to talk a mentally ill person through a crisis.

Cederholm said he was determined to die in June 2005 when he pointed a gun at a Milwaukie Police officer, and the officer shot him in the arm, narrowly missing his chest. He still has the scar.

"I was hell-bent," Cederholm tells the class participants. "Some poor (guy) had to shoot me. I'm sure it ruined his day."

Cop lied to witness about Chasse’s drug-use

from the Portland Mercury, by Matt Davis

A Portland Police Officer told a bystander who witnessed the arrest of James Phillip Chasse on September 17 that Chasse had “14 former convictions for crack cocaine,” and how he and his colleagues “found a vial of crack cocaine on him” that night. This is according to the cops’ investigative report into Chasse’s death, which has just been released.

What one unnamed officer apparently told witness Constance Doolan, is not true—Portland Police Public Information Officer Brian Schmautz says Chasse had no record, and that no crack was found on him on the night of September 17. Nor did he have any drugs in his bloodstream, according to the autopsy.

Many will read this as the officer’s attempt to justify his colleagues’ use of force in arresting Chasse. Unfortunately, the investigating officers do not appear to have asked Ms.Doolan which officer told her this, or for a description of him to try to ascertain who he was. From the investigation’s transcripts, their only response to the accusation was “Um-hm”.

It is rare for officers to be fired for use of force, but officers have been sacked for lying in the past.

“Usually officers don’t get fired for use of force, but for lying, cheating, or stealing,” says Portland Copwatch activist Dan Handelman, “Officers in the past have been fired for being untruthful—an officer lied over whether he backed his car into a phone pole a couple of years ago and got fired for that, I believe. This is just one witness’s statement, but if it happened, then it’s pretty outrageous.”

Portland Police Bureau releases witness statements in Chasse case

One Pearl District resident describes what he saw

from the Portland Tribune, by Jacob Quinn Sanders

The Portland Police Bureau on Friday released its records on the controversial in-custody death of James Chasse Jr. on Sept. 17.

Among the hundreds of pages of records are interviews with civilian witnesses – transcribed verbatim – that illustrate what the events across from the Pearl District restaurant Bluehour looked like to those without police training and experience.

Though the Chasse family obtained investigators’ interviews with the officers involved in the incident that led to Chasse’s death, and though they released them to reporters Oct. 18, the day after a Multnomah County grand jury cleared the officers of criminal wrongdoing, this is the first time the statements of other witnesses has been made public.

These are excerpts from one of four transcribed civilian witness interviews conducted by Portland police detectives between Sept. 24 and Oct. 4. To read the entire interview, click the link at the bottom of this story.

Justin Soltani, 34, a computer consultant, lives in the Pearl. Portland police Detective Jon Rhodes interviewed him Sept. 24 over the phone.

When Soltani first saw Chasse, Soltani was in his car. Chasse stood upright, apparently looking for change in a parking meter. Portland police officer Christopher Humphreys and Multnomah County deputy sheriff Brad Burton pulled over hard in front of Soltani on Northwest Everett Street between 13th and 14th avenues, near the restaurant Bluehour. Humphreys wore a police bureau baseball cap.

The cops walk toward Chasse, telling him to stand still. Chasse started walking away.

SOLTANI: And they yelled stop and initially, I mean initially I thought he was mentally retarded.

RHODES: Um-hm.

SOLTANI: Cause he was just walking and screaming. Um, he just started screaming and started running down towards the Blue Hour, between 13th and 14th, between 14th and 13th. …

RHODES: So, so the guy starts to, uh, he’s, is he running away from them did you say or is he walking away from them at that point.

SOLTANI: He, he wasn’t, he, he couldn’t run.

RHODES: Um-hm.

SOLTANI: I mean, when you saw him, I definitely thought he was mentally retarded because of the way he was yelling.

RHODES: What was he …

SOLTANI: The screams.

RHODES: Could you tell what he was yelling and screaming?

SOLTANI: Well he was just kind of like, ewrrrrrr.

RHODES: Yeah. Okay.

SOLTANI: Uh, yeah, probably something like a Wookie, uh.

Chasse starts running, and the officers chase him. Another police car whizzes by, pulling in front of Bluehour at a 45-degree angle.

SOLTANI: And it stopped there and then two officers chase him down and the guy with the hat on, just tackled him down.

RHODES: Okay.

SOLTANI: And then another, then the Multnomah County, the guy, the sheriff in the green showed up and then …

RHODES: Um-hm.

SOLTANI: There was a sergeant also.

Later, that sergeant would be identified as Kyle Nice.

Rhodes asked Soltani how Humphreys brought Chasse down, whether Chasse fell or whether Humphreys forced him to the ground.

RHODES: Okay, so um, you see the officer, you see the guy fall to the ground and did this, could you see whether or not the officer that was chasing him fell on him as well or could you see that part?

SOLTANI: Yes he, when he went down on him, when he went down on him …

RHODES: … Um-hm …

SOLTANI: He pretty much, the guy was done and he was, the officer was half-twisted on him.

RHODES: Okay.

SOLTANI: And he was trying to hold him down and then the other officers, um, joined in.

RHODES: Okay.

SOLTANI: Trying to, to restrain him. …

Chasse fought and squirmed, screaming the whole time, as Soltani went to park his car. He heard officers yelling for Chasse to stop moving.

Soltani said he never saw Burton use his Taser, though Burton did, and he also never saw Chasse bite Nice and try to bite Humphreys, which other witnesses did.

When Soltani walked back to the scene, Chasse still wrestled with officers but was in handcuffs.

He saw Humphreys walk up to Chasse several times, still charged from the struggle. …

SOLTANI: The officer with the hat kept walking away from him, kept coming closer and he was, he was with his fore-fingers, fore and middle fingers kept poking the guy in the head. The (officer) just kept poking him in the head, just tapping him on the head. …

RHODES: Like he’s what, trying to, could you tell what he was saying while he was doing that?

SOLTANI: He was saying something but I couldn’t hear …

RHODES: Okay.

SOLTANI: And he just kept tapping him on the forehead and that’s what got me a little upset.

RHODES: Tapping him?

SOLTANI: Yes, because, it, it, it was just no reason for it.

RHODES: Okay, was he like, did it seem like he was trying to get his attention or was he?

SOLTANI: I think he was, I mean it was just, to me, it, it was just like an adrenaline rush and he just couldn’t get off of.

RHODES: Right.

SOLTANI: And he kept walking back away from the suspect, kept coming back to him and he kept tapping him on the head.

RHODES: Uh-huh

SOLTANI: And another officer showed up and he came over and put his foot on the guys leg and he just stood there. And then just a couple, and then the guy was still screaming …

RHODES: … Okay, still screaming, okay.

SOLTANI: Yeah, and then an officer came in front of me and I couldn’t see anymore, but just something happened and the guy just, just stopped moving.

RHODES: Okay.

SOLTANI: He just, I mean he just, just stopped.

RHODES: Could you tell what was going on when he all of a sudden just stopped screaming and stopped moving?

SOLTANI: No, I, I, I thought he was dead.

Nice called for emergency medical personnel, then stepped back, near where Soltani stood. The sergeant asked Soltani whether he was concerned about what he witnessed.

SOLTANI: and I said yes, and he goes well would you like to discuss it now? I said I‘d rather wait for you to finish and I can call you.

Nice was out of business cards, but wrote his name and number of a piece of police-notebook paper and asked Soltani to call the next day.

Soltani did not.

RHODES: Well, this is just as good, actually probably better ‘cause um, you know it’s be, since he was involved it’s much better that you actually um, talk to us. …

Soltani saw paramedics check Chasse’s blood-pressure, shine a flashlight in his eyes. Then he saw a paramedic give the “all clear that he was fine.”

SOLTANI: And they just, just left, walked away from him …

RHODES: … Okay …

SOLTANI: And the guy was still just lying there not moving. …

RHODES: … Is he saying anything at that point?

SOLTANI: No, he was just, he was silent …

SOLTANI: And then um, my um, reaction then I turned to Sergeant Nice and said it sounds like a busy day …

RHODES: (laughs) yeah.

SOLTANI: And so he goes oh he’s not dead. And I said no I meant are you having a busy day ‘cause you know for a Sunday I don’t know what’s going on. You shouldn’t be here, be out in church or having a vac … it, it’s been busy. … And, and the entire Blue Hour was sitting there drinking and watching.

Related documents
Transcript of interview with Pearl District resident Justin Soltani (PDF document - 6.3MB, 31 pages )
Transcript of taped interview with Portland police officer Christopher Humphreys, p. 12 (emphasis belongs to Chasse family attorney Tom Steenson)
Transcript of taped interview with Multnomah County Sheriff's Office Deputy Brad Burton, p. 39
Transcript of taped interview with Portland police officer Kyle Nice, p. 19
Transcript of taped interview with Portland police officer Kyle Nice, p. 20

Police fact sheet on the incident
Police presentation describing the timeline of the incident
District Attorney's letter describing the grand jury decision
Portland Police Bureau Chief Rosie Sizer's statement about the grand jury decision
Police review process

Related stories:
When cops use force, Oct. 31
As Chasse controversy deepens, cops have yet to release key documents, Oct. 19

Officer's statements conflict with police account of in-custody death, Oct. 18
Grand jury exonerates officers in Chasse death, Oct. 17
Chasse family hires expert witness to testify before grand jury, Oct. 16, 2006
Chasse grand jury decision expected soon, Oct 15, 2006

Chasse grand jury still out, Oct 10, 2006
Potter plans Chasse death follow-up committee, Oct 9, 2006